Camp Totat Jalu has been hosting a school of bees these past two months, as Bukit Batikap Conservation Forest is in flowering season. Hundreds of bees come in the morning, linger during the daytime, and leave at around six in the evening. Even so, everyone at Camp was in high spirit welcoming 12 new orangutans on April 19-20, 2014.
Final preparation in Batikap had been conducted three days before D-Day, when three groups of technicians pioneered new transects, which will be used to monitor the newly released orangutans. One day before D-Day, the Team went down to the pre-designated release points for final checks. On the same day, the Post-Release Monitoring Team left Totat Jalu in the morning to stay at our temporary camp in Monnu, one of the release points, and get ready for the upcoming monitoring activities.
DAY 1 – April 19
The Team woke up to a cloudy morning. An on our way to Drop Point Monnu, it started to drizzle. Nevertheless, we were ready in Monnu by 9.30 am. By then, we received news that Muara Teweh was also cloudy and had started to rain as well. The Twin Otter airplane from Palangka Raya did not get permission to fly to Muara Teweh. We had no choice but to wait.
It was around lunchtime when we finally received promising news that the first group of orangutans had finally arrived in Muara Teweh and was getting ready to be flown to Batikap. And at 2.30 pm, the helicopter carrying the first group of orangutans on slingload arrived in Monnu. Miss Owen, Slamet, Kacio and Olympia were immediately unloaded and transported by ces (Dayak traditional small boat) to Tajoi Besar, around 500 meters from the drop point.
The first to be released was Miss Owen by Dedi, Camp Totat Jalu’s technician who has been working for the BOS Foundation since 2006. Miss Owen climbed a tree right away. Kacio was next. She was released by Yansah, a Nyaru Menteng’s technician. Just like Miss Owen, she also immediately climbed a tree, then moved to a nearby tree and stayed there for a while, enjoying her new home.
Next in line was Olympia. The 15 year-old female was released by Purnomo, another Camp Totat Jalu’s technician whose outstanding profile can be read here. Olympia seemed to hesitate a bit. But after carefully observing her new surroundings, she eventually climbed.
The last one was Slamet, an 18 year-old dominant male orangutan. He was released by Wachid, a representative of the Central Kalimantan Conservation and Natural Resources Authority. Slamet stepped out of his travel cage. But instead of climbing a tree, he turned around and flipped his travel cage. The Team took a few steps back to give him space, but he didn’t really proceed into the forest until all the team members were on the ces.
It was late afternoon. Time was running out. And sure enough, the Team in Muara Teweh reported that departure of the second group of orangutans was cancelled and rescheduled for tomorrow. We returned to Camp and prayed for a better weather tomorrow.
DAY 2 – April 20
Our prayers were answered with bright and sunny sky this morning! The Team got ready at Drop Point Monnu and at around 9.30 am, Trold, Bonita, Kiki and Hardi – Kiki’s eight year old daughter – finally arrived. Once unloaded from the slingload, they were transported to their release point, around 600 meters downriver.
Pretty Trold was released first. Camp Totat Jalu’s technician, Arfan, opened her travel cage and she climbed high a tree right in front of her travel cage. Then Tuwe, also Camp Totat Jalu’s technician, opened Bonita’s travel cage. Bonita, too, immediately climbed a tree. Kiki was next. Her travel cage was opened by Ahmat, Batikap Release Team Coordinator.
Last but not least was Hardi, Kiki’s eight year-old daughter. Camp Totat Jalu’s Monitoring Coordinator Ike Nayasilana and vet Adhy Maruli prepared to open this last travel cage of the group under Kiki’s watchful eyes. Kiki seemed quite concerned about her daughter that she decided to approach the travel cage before Ike had a chance to open it. Kiki guarded the door, making it difficult for the Team to open it. Eventually, the technicians managed to steer Kiki away. Hardi’s travel cage was immediately opened and the agile youngster dashed and climbed a tree in front of her, leaving her mother who quickly followed her.
Last Group of Orangutans
The Team returned to Monnu to welcome the last group of orangutans. Omego, Sella, Cuplis, and Wardah arrived at around 1 pm and were transported one kilometer from the drop point to their release points. Cuplis, a 12 year-old semiwild female orangutan, was released first. Cuplis ran out of her travel cage fast and climbed a tree really fast. She finally stopped after she was really high up in the canopy to observe her new home.
A senior technician from Nyaru Menteng, Kayoh, opened the next cage, which is the travel cage of Sella. Unlike her other friends who quickly took to the trees, Sella decided to play with her cage’s door and hangout by the river. So we turned our attention to Wardah and opened her travel cage. She immediately ran out of her cage and climbed a tree.
Lastly, Omego got his turn. This dominant male was so heavy that it took six people to carry his travel cage to his release point. Elldy, Camp Totat Jalu’s technician, opened Omego’s travel cage. Just like Slamet yesterday, Omego also took his time. He observed the Team and still looked a little bit confused. He then found a corn cob in his travel cage and started enjoying it, before he finally spotted Sella and decided to hangout with her.
The Team left Omego’s release point right in time when heavy rain started to pour down on us. We were soaking wet on the ces going back to the camp, but our hearts were light with the joy knowing 12 more orangutans are now living free in their true habitat. We are looking forward to getting more and more orangutans here in the forest of Batikap.
Orangutan release activities are very costly. Help us send more orangutans home by donating at http://donation.orangutan.or.id
Text and Photos by: Media Romadona Clemm, Communications Officer.